Structural and Attitudinal Barriers to Bicycle Ownership and Cycle-Based Transport in Gauteng, South Africa

Ellison, George orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8914-6812 and De Wet, T. (2022) Structural and Attitudinal Barriers to Bicycle Ownership and Cycle-Based Transport in Gauteng, South Africa. Transportation in Developing Economies, 8 (16). ISSN 2199-9287

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Policies that aim to facilitate and promote non-motorised transport (NMT), and in particular cycling, have been developed by many high-income countries facing increasingly congested roads and saturated public transport systems. Such policies are also emerging in many low- and middle-income settings where high rates of urbanisation have led to similar problems with motorised transport. The aim of the present study was to better understand the potential structural and attitudinal barriers to cycle-based transport in one such context: South Africa’s Gauteng Province, the industrial powerhouse of sub-Saharan Africa that has recently made a firm commitment to NMT. The study focussed on demographic and socioeconomic variation in bicycle and car ownership, and related this to: (1) the reported use of motorised and non-motorised transport (both private and public); and (2) perceived ‘problems’ with cycling. The analyses drew on interviews with key respondents from n = 27,490 households conducted in 2013 as part of the third Quality of Life survey undertaken by the Gauteng City Regional Observatory. The survey contained items on three outcomes of interest: household vehicle ownership (bicycles and cars); modes of transport used for the “trips” most often made; and respondents’ “single biggest problem with… cycling”. Respondent- and household-level demographic and socioeconomic determinants of these outcomes were examined using descriptive and multivariable statistical analyses, the latter after adjustment for measured potential confounders identified using a theoretical causal path diagram (in the form of a directed acyclic graph). Of the n = 26,469 households providing complete data on all of the variables examined in the present study, only n = 8722 (32.9%) owned a car and fewer still (n = 2244; 8.4%) owned a bicycle. The ownership of these assets was commonest amongst wealthier, economically active households; and those that owned a car had over five times the odds of also owning a bicycle, even after adjustment for potential confounding (OR 5.17; 95% CI 4.58, 5.85). Moreover, of household respondents who reported making ‘trips’ during the preceding month (n = 18,209), over two-thirds of those whose households owned a car (70.1%) reported private car-based transport for such trips, while only 3.2% of those owning a bicycle reported cycling. Amongst the specific responses given to the item requesting the “single biggest problem with… cycling” by far the commonest was “Don’t know how to cycle” (32.2%), less than half as many citing “Vehicle accident risk” (15.9%), and fewer still: “Destination is too far” (13.9%); “Crime” (10.3%); “Too much effort” (9.2%); or “Lack of good paths” (4.6%). While the first of these reasons was commonest amongst poorer households, concerns about risk and effort were both most common amongst better educated, economically active and wealthier/better serviced households. In contrast, concerns over (cycle) paths were only common amongst those owning bicycles. The low prevalence of household bicycle ownership, and the disproportionate number of households owning bicycles that also owned cars, might explain the very small proportion of the ‘the trips most often made’ that involved cycle-based transport (0.3%), and the preferential use of cars amongst households owning both bicycles and cars. Low levels of bicycle ownership might also explain why so many respondents cited “Don’t know how” as the “single biggest problem with… cycling”; although risk and effort were also substantial concerns (presumably for many who did, and some who did not, know how to cycle); the lack of suitable cycle lanes being only primarily a concern for those who actually owned bicycles. Structural and attitudinal barriers to cycle-based transport limit the use of cycle-based transport in Gauteng, not only amongst the vast majority of household respondents who lack the means to cycle (and the means to learn how), but also amongst those dissuaded from learning to cycle, purchasing a bicycle and/or using a bicycle they own by: the risks and effort involved; the lack of suitable cycle paths; and/or because they also own a car and prefer to drive than cycle.

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